Muhlenbergia capillaris

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Muhlenbergia capillaris
Muhl capi.jpg
Photo by John R. Gwaltney, Southeastern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Tracheophyta- Vascular plants
Class: Lilianeae -Monocotyledons
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Muhlenbergia
Species: M. capillaris
Binomial name
Muhlenbergia capillaris
(Lam.) Trin.
Muhl capi dist.jpg
Natural range of Muhlenbergia capillaris from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common names: hairgrass, hair-awm muhly[1]

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: Muhlenbergia capillaris var. capillaris[1]

Varieties: none[1]


"Perennials. Blades usually scaberulous on both surfaces and margins; sheath margins scarious, at least apically; ligules scarious, erose or erose-ciliate. Spikelets 1-flowered. Glumes equaling or shorter than lemmas, lemmas not indurate. Grain enclosed by lemma and palea at maturity."[2]

"Cespitose perennial; culms 5-12 dm tall, nodes and internodes glabrous. Leaves primarily basal; blades flat or involute, to 3 dm long, 103 mm wide; sheaths scaberulous; ligules 2-5 mm long. Panicle open, diffuse, delicate, 2-5 dm long, 1-2 dm broad; branches capillary, spreading, scaberulous. Spikelets usually purplish, lanceolate to narrowly ellipsoid, 4-5 mm long excluding awn; pedicels capillary, spreading, scaberulous. Glumes usually 1-nerved, usually scaberulous on midrib, scarious, 1st glume body 0.3-1.2 mm long, awn 0.3-1.2 mm long, 2nd glume body 1-1.5 mm long, awn 1-1.5 mm long; lemmas purplish, 3-nerved, scaberulous, body 3-4 mm long, awns 3-12 mm long; paleas purplish, faintly nerved, acuminate, 3-4 mm long. Grain purplish, narrowly ellipsoid, 2-2.4 mm long."[2]


M. capillaris ranges from Massachusetts, New York, southern Ohio southern Indiana, southern Illinois, Missouri, and eastern Kansas to southern Florida, Louisiana, and southern Texas.[1]



M. capillaris has been found in marshes, open pineland, pine-turkey oak flats, drained buttonwood flats, sandy ridges, limerock, slash pineland, treeless chalk glades, and dike crests.[3] It is also found in disturbed areas including cleared construction sites, powerline corridors, roadsides, burned slash pine-scrub flats, and disturbed longleaf pinelands.[3] Associated species: Sporobolus junceus, Dichanthelium dichotomum, Rudbeckia flugida, Schizachyrium scoparium, Pyracantha, Sideroxylon, and Berchemia.[3]

M. capillaris decreased its occurrence in response to soil disturbance by agriculture in southwest Georgia. It has shown resistance to regrowth in reestablished savanna habitats that were disturbed by these practices.[4][5] It was found to have mixed responses to soil disturbance by roller chopping in south Florida. It either exhibits regrowth or its growth is unaffected in reestablished, post-disturbance habitat.[6]

Muhlenbergia capillaris var. trichopodes is frequent and abundant in the Clayhill Longleaf Woodlands and Lower Panhandle Savannas community types as described in Carr et al. (2010).[7]


M. capillaris flowers from late August to October.[1]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by gravity.[8]

Fire ecology

Populations of Muhlenbergia capillaris have been known to persist through repeated annual burns.[9]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 107. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Florida State University Herbarium Database. URL: Last accessed: June 2021. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Wilson Baker,A. F. Clewell, Mark A Garland, R.K. Godfrey, Ed Keppner, Lisa Keppner, R. Kral, and O. Lakela. States and counties: Florida: Bay, Franklin, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Leon, Madison, Monroe, Nassau and Wakulla.
  4. Kirkman, L.K., K.L. Coffey, R.J. Mitchell, and E.B. Moser. Ground Cover Recovery Patterns and Life-History Traits: Implications for Restoration Obstacles and Opportunities in a Species-Rich Savanna. (2004). Journal of Ecology 92(3):409-421.
  5. Ostertag, T. E. and K. M. Robertson. 2007. A comparison of native versus old-field vegetation in upland pinelands managed with frequent fire, South Georgia, USA. Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference Proceedings 23: 109-120.
  6. Lewis, C.E. (1970). Responses to Chopping and Rock Phosphate on South Florida Ranges. Journal of Range Management 23(4):276-282.
  7. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  8. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  9. Robertson, K.M. Unpublished data collected from Pebble Hill Fire Plots, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia.